Ayden grew up on a Queensland farming property with his parents and two older sisters. Every Sunday the family would go into town to attend mass at the site of a former orphanage run by the Sisters of Mercy. After church, Ayden would go to Sunday school in the same location.
He doesn’t remember exactly when it began, but he recalls that when he was about seven years old, the priest, Father Porteous, would pull him onto his lap during Sunday school and molest him through his clothes. As this occurred during lessons, other children were in the room at the time. On one occasion, the school bus driver was also there, but Ayden doesn’t know if she was aware of what was occurring. ‘I know she looked up ‘cause I tried to get off his lap and he pulled me back on.’
Ayden’s memory of this time is fuzzy, but he recalls that Porteous molested him in this manner ‘maybe two or three times’ before he’d ‘settle down again and just sort of grab the next child’. The abuse continued until ‘I was sent to boarding school and I sort of never had anything to do with him after that … I would have been 12, turning 13 I s’pose’.
Ayden was aware that Porteous’s behaviour was unusual, but he didn’t quite understand how wrong it was, even after being questioned as a teenager by his mother.
‘I sort of knew it was very strange and that, but I didn’t really say anything. And my mother, she was with another lady in the shopping centre one day, and she asked me “Did anything happen?” I said no at the time, I didn’t think of it.’
As a teenager, Ayden struggled with school and preferred solitude. ‘I wasn’t sort of in trouble so much but I was sort of withdrawn from everything and sort of trying to avoid a lot of people I s’pose.’
After completing Year 12 he did a year of college followed by a four-year apprenticeship.
For most of his adulthood, Ayden put Father Porteous’ actions to the back of his mind. ‘I guess I sort of forgot about it for a fair while. It was only because of certain actions that happened down the track that made me remember.’ Several years ago, Ayden was caught on film performing a lewd act which led to police involvement. It was this event that triggered his memories and was the catalyst for him to seek professional help.
‘I went to the psychiatrist ‘cause I was having a lot of trouble and doctors weren’t helping me. Eventually he put me onto the psychiatrist and quite a few sessions there and eventually sort of told him what was going on and slowly been healing through the process and still continuing at the moment … I think he’s helping.’
Ayden is now married with children and lives and works on the family property he grew up on. Because of his significant trust issues, Ayden has only ever disclosed the abuse to his psychiatrist, and later his wife. He has never reported it to the police nor sought compensation.
These days, Ayden is troubled by the knowledge that Porteous most likely abused other children in this manner.
‘I didn’t think I was the only one that this was happening to at the time … It sort of bothers me. I can’t sort of remember properly and it’s just something that was bothering me all the time.’